Witness welfare review following councillor’s death

Witness welfare review following councillor’s death

February 10, 2022

A parliamentary inquiry will consider whether Victoria’s integrity agencies are properly managing the welfare of witnesses following the suicide of a former mayor under investigation by the state’s corruption watchdog.

Jill Hennessy, the chair of the integrity and oversight committee, made the announcement on Thursday. Amanda Stapledon the former mayor of the City of Casey, was found dead on January 18.

Former Casey council mayor Amanda Stapledon in 2018.Credit:Paul Jeffers

At the time police said they would prepare a report for the coroner but that the death was not being treated as suspicious.

Ms Stapledon was one of a group of former Casey councillors investigated by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) over dealings with allegedly corrupt developer John Woodman.

As part of its Operation Sandon, IBAC conducted weeks of public hearings about the alleged corruption through late 2019 and 2020. It was due to release its findings early this year and had finalised a draft report shortly before Ms Stapledon’s death.

In a statement, the parliamentary committee said it unanimously agreed to consider the welfare of witnesses as part of its annual review into the agencies before tabling its report in June.

Jill Hennessy is chair of the integrity and oversight committee.Credit:Eddie Jim

“The committee will be holding public hearings over the coming months with the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission, the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner, the Victorian Inspectorate and the Victorian Ombudsman.

“The committee will inquire into the Victorian integrity agencies’ management of the welfare of witnesses, and others involved in agency investigations.”

A spokeswoman for IBAC said: “IBAC welcomes the opportunity to participate in the IOC’s [integrity and oversight committee’s] regular annual review of integrity agency performance, and answer questions on witness welfare and other aspects of IBAC’s role.”

Ms Stapledon, 58, was also a Liberal state election candidate in 2014.

IBAC heard Ms Stapledon failed to properly declare tens of thousands of dollars in political donations from Mr Woodman over almost five years as the Casey Council considered planning matters that were likely to generate windfall profits for Mr Woodman and his developer clients.

In March 2020, Ms Stapledon told IBAC that Mr Woodman donated $25,000 for her 2014 tilt for the state seat of Narre Warren North in Melbourne’s south-east. He also hosted a fundraiser, bought multiple tickets to other fundraisers and donated a helicopter ride for auction.

Ms Stapledon confirmed that through 2014 she failed to declare conflicts of interest as the council considered a controversial rezoning of land in Cranbourne West spearheaded by Mr Woodman.

Ms Stapledon was also part of a team of about 10 council candidates bankrolled by Mr Woodman at the 2016 council election as part of a $100,000 campaign overseen by former mayor Sam Aziz.

Crisis support can be found at Lifeline: (13 11 14 and lifeline.org.au), the Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467 and suicidecallbackservice.org.au) and Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636 and beyondblue.org.au).

With Royce Miller

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